Corder Report on Oversight and Accountability: consideration

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

27 August 2001

: Ms F Chohan-Kota

Documents handed out
Report on Oversight and Accountability

The Joint Subcommittee met to discuss Chapter 7 of the Report on Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability. This was the last chapter of the report that would receive consideration from the Subcommittee. Chapter 8 was not discussed as it contained recommendations, and the Subcommittee would be submitting its own recommendations.

It was suggested that the Subcommittee recommend that more research needed to be done on the topic of the accountability and independence of constitutional institutions. Insufficient consultation had been performed by the authors of the Report on Oversight and Accountability

Chapter 7: Accountability and Independence of Constitutional Institutions
Ms Chohan-Kota (ANC) went through the chapter summarising the important issues.

The Report deals with the special role of state institutions supporting constitutional democracy, also known as the Chapter 9 institutions. The independence of these institutions are dealt with from two perspectives, namely financial and administrative independence. After discussing the different elements of independence, the chapter goes on to make recommendations as to how these principles can be best provided for. The recommendations fall into two categories, namely legislation and structures. The report recommended the creation of a Standing Committee on Constitutional Institutions (SCOCI) and the enactment of the Accountability and Independence of Constitutional Institutions Act.

Ms Chohan-Kota noted that there were three important recommendations. Namely the creation of a piece of legislation to protect independence of institutions responsible for oversight. The second was the formation of a body dedicated to dealing with matters rising out of constitutional institutions. The third was the guaranteeing of both financial and administrative independence.

Mr J Jeffrey (ANC) expressed concern that in only the Chapter 9 institutions had been consulted by the authors of the Report. No mention had been made of consultation with other possible interested bodies. He specifically mentioned the Treasury, saying that since there were budgetary implications, surely they should have been asked for their opinion. The Justice Department nor any other Government Departments that could have had meaningful input, had been consulted. He was of the opinion that for proper consideration of the recommendations, a look 'at the bigger picture' would be necessary. He recommended that one of this Subcommittee's recommendations be that this matter be looked into further and additional information obtained through the use of consultants.

Ms Chohan-Kota agreed with Mr Jeffrey saying that there was a lot of issues still in need of attention. According to the Report's recommendations, the Chapter 9 institutions should be separate from those governmental bodies to which they are currently affiliated. If this were to be done, then who would represent these institutions before Cabinet when their budgets needed to be fought for.

Mr Jeffrey stated that the Subcommittee needed to submit a report to the Joint Rules Committee so that their mandate could be extended, so that they may in turn gather the additional information they now knew they needed. This information would be gathered through the use of consultants.

Mr Lever, an opposition party member, felt that the matter now being discussed dealt with practical matters and not really policy. He said that the Joint Subcommittee was established to consider the report and then make recommendations to the Joint Rules Committee. This report could then call for the use of consultants in obtaining additional information. It was not however the function of the Subcommittee to hire consultants to gather that information. Mr Lever added that perhaps the same consultants should be used as they already had a feel for what they were trying to achieve.

Ms Chohan-Kota told Mr Lever that he had correctly identified the role of the Subcommittee. They were charged with the consideration of the report and the production of their own report which would also contain recommendations. The Joint Rules Committee would then act upon this. Ms Chohan-Kota said that the alternative to the hiring of consultants would be the appointment of an adequately resourced committee.

Mr Jeffrey said that he was not ruling out the hiring of consultants but said he felt that the matter should be looked at better before making any decisions. He said the whole report should be looked at, then the Subcommittee should prepare its own report. Once this is done, they should look at the situation in its entirety. Once this overview has been considered, then the Subcommittee can decide which road to go.

Ms Chohan-Kota said that the Subcommittee's official posiiton on the matter would be to report to the Joint Rules Committee that they could not properly consider the recommendations made in the report because of a lack of information. They would then advise the Joint Rules Committee that more information needed to be obtained either through an adequately resourced committee of Parliament, or through the use of consultants.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Terms of Reference
After the discussion of Chapter 7 the report had been examined in its entirety. At this point the Committee directed its attention back to Chapter 1 which had been flagged for reconsideration. The chapter deals with definitions and the introduction to concepts relating to oversight and accountability.

Mr Lever believed that the Subcommittee had gone into sufficient detail on the subject of the definitions in its initial discussion. The precise definition of the concepts had added no value to the consideration of the Report and it was thus not necessary to discuss these matters now.

Mr Jeffrey said that he did not quite agree with Mr Lever's statement. Definition was important as there had to be an agreement on what is envisaged by the terms oversight and accountability. If there was not at least a broad agreement on these terms, then the constitutional mandates of bodies responsible for oversight and accountability, would not be fulfilled. In order to properly fulfill one's mandate, one would have to determine precisely what is meant by terms such as oversight, accountability, financial and administrative independence.

Mr Lever said that he and Mr Jeffrey were not at odds on this point. However for the purpose of consideration of the Report, the exhaustive discussion of the definitions in Chapter 1 were not necessary as it added no value to the process.

Ms Chohan-Kota interjected saying that she too felt that Mr Lever and Mr Jeffrey were not necessarily disagreeing, as Mr Lever was only saying that the definition of the concepts was not important for present purposes. She then adjourned the meeting.


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